A Princeton doctoral student has been kidnapped in Iraq while conducting research in the country, according to Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Elizabeth Tsurkov, 36, was in Iraq conducting field research for her doctoral dissertation at Princeton University. Netanyahu said that Tsurkov, an Israeli native, is being held by the Kata’ib Hezbollah, which the National Counterterrorism Center describes as an Iraqi Shia militant group.
Netanyahu also said in his statement that Tsurkov was still alive, and that Israel holds Iraq “responsible for her safety and well-being.” He said that she used her Russian passport to visit Iraq “at her own initiative,” in connection with her doctoral work at Princeton University.
“The matter is being handled by the relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security and well-being,” he said.
Tsurkov is also a fellow and contributor for the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, who said in a statement that their last contact with her was in March. The Washington-based research group said that she last spoke with them on March 19, when she told the group that she was finished doing field research in Iraq and wanted to come back to the United States.
A week after their last contact in March, the group said that they had learned from their sources that she was kidnapped by a “pro-Iranian group” in Baghdad, where she was conducting her research. Since learning of the kidnapping, the group said that it has been in contact with U.S. and international officials as well as Princeton University to try and learn more information.
“We will continue to do all of this,” New Lines Magazine said in a press release. “We hope she will be released in a negotiation, and although we don’t know for certain where she is, it would probably involve Iran. Since Liz is also a Russian national, it may well involve Russia, too.”
“Liz’s research is heavy on political science, and her fieldwork in the Arab world poses no threat to anyone,” the group added. “She is, however, an Israeli national, so there are parts of the Middle East where her very identity places her at grave risk. Iraq’s flirtation with ‘resistance’ politics made it inhospitable, to say nothing of the pro-Iranian militias embedded and running amok in it.”
The group also noted that Tsurkov is an “outspoken critic” of the three countries involved in potentially negotiating for her release: Israel, Iran and Russia. The group called on the U.S. to help with demanding for her release.
“All of us feel that the United States needs to be involved in some way in helping Liz,” the group wrote. “She is not a U.S. national, and her disappearance did not trigger the sort of aggressive U.S. reaction that an American’s might. But Liz is very much a part of America.”
The Hill has reached out to Princeton University for comment.
Source : The Hill